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NSFW: mountains and other sh-t

14 Sep

老僧三十年前未參禪時、見山是山、見水是水、及至後夾親見知識、有箇入處、見山不是山、見水不是水、而今得箇體歇處、依然見山秪是山、見水秪是水

Or, in other words

Before I had studied Zen for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and waters as waters. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and waters are not waters. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and waters once again as waters.

This famous Buddhist teaching, often called “Mountains are Mountains” comes from Ch’ing-yüan Wei-hsin. Yet most martial artists know the teaching from a paraphrasing that Bruce Lee used. Forgive me, really, but people seem to love Bruce Lee without ever understanding that most of his “deep thoughts” were from his many philosophy classes in college and without ever really embracing the ideas behind them.

In my “initial phase” of life I spent my time learning staff, sword and spear, learning many hand sets and in the world of “traditional martial arts”. That’s the world of the so-called Northern and Southern styles, the so-called “internal” and “external” styles. They will tell you that there is “Daoist breathing” and “Buddhist breathing”. They will tell you there is Qi Gong and Nei Gong.

In what to many may seem like another life, I spent many years doing “mixed martial arts” or “progressive training”; my friends were Muay Thai fighters, wrestlers, Jiujitsu people, MMA fighters. I have said often my evolutionary path was based a lot upon Japanese shooto. The “mixed” or “progressive” world is one in which people doing boxing, Muay Thai, Judo, Jiujitsu, wrestling, Catch wrestling, Sambo, etc.

These days, I am to many an even more unusual animal; you are equally likely to find me in Muay Thai shorts teaching what I call (for convenience sake) a “kickboxing class” OR teaching students the first foundation set of Lama Pai kung fu called “Siu Lo Han” 小羅漢拳 with its “traditional” applications.

Clearly some people will wonder how (maybe “why”?) I can do these things? How do I “compartmentalize” it all? The answer is simple, but probably uncomfortable to many, I DO NOT. I do not compartmentalize them in any way because to me they are all the same. If you ask me, once you learn them correctly and dismiss the “marketing” (and bullshit) they you learn that the human body only moves so many ways and there are only things that work and things that do not.

People may want them to be different, they may in fact believe them to be different. Many are certainly emotionally invested in them being different. But, to quote an old friend, “all the shit is the same”. Your shit, their shit, my shit, all the same……

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Sorry, you’re wrong, get over it…..

28 Aug

Another NSFW post, building upon yesterday’s blog and the responses from many. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

We are more than half way through 2017 and we still hear the same old tired non-arguments from so called “traditional martial artists” about how martial arts is about “real fights”. People say you are supposed to be polite and engage in conversations; but when people flatly ignore logic and display cognitive biases you aren’t really left with much else other than to call them out. In other words: Sorry, you’re wrong, get over it….

You want to talk about “real fights”? Fine. Let’s talk about how they frequently happen; an overwhelming barrage assault that overcomes the senses and frequently shuts down the person being attacked. That is precisely what it is designed to do. That is why PRESSURE TESTING is so important if you want your martial arts to be REAL. Learning to function with adrenaline response is the ONLY way to fight effectively. It’s why so called “sport fighters” are always going to be better prepared for a real fight than the guy who never leaves his traditional school. It is why military around the planet train with combat sports, even engage in “war games”, not the “games” part….

Studies by the FBI have consistently shown that when attacked with a knife, it is usually the last few attacks that do the damage and/or kill. IE again the way it works “for real” is that all too frequently a person attacked is overwhelmed and gives up.

Hate to break it to you, but it is not all that different than covering up the first few rounds in a match against an aggressive opponent, surviving their initial assault, letting them gas out / “blow their wad” and THEN “making them pay”.

If you really know anything about “combat sports” you’d know that in these matches things that the average martial artist cites as “deadly” happen all the time, with LITTLE EFFECT. The human body, especially on adrenaline, can take damage that most would assume would KO or kill you. NOT SO. People who talk about “real fighting” and then resort to “the deadly” can not be taken seriously.

So returning once again to yesterday’s blog about the Mayweather vs McGregor match; we can see that the average “martial artist” knows very little about how real fights happen, has no idea what fighting strategy is and clings desperately to their preconceived views. The fact things didn’t happen “their way” must mean it was fake, or worked, or a set up… The justifications and denial is astounding! And, sorry, I am not going to let it slide…

NSFW: Mayweather vs McGregor and what it should tell us about martial arts

28 Aug

WARNING: I am going to offend you. If you decide to continue reading, you’ve been warned.

If you paid to watch the Mayweather vs McGregor fight, I feel for you. Not because it wasn’t an exciting fight. It was entertaining. But that you paid $100 for something whose outcome was 100% certain. And, starting to apologize here for what I am going to say in this blog, yes it was 100% certain the entire time.

If you are one of those people who after the fight either asked or claimed the fight was a “work” then I really feel sorry for you. If you thought that fight was a “work” in any way, the only thing I can say in response is the obvious; you do not understand much about real fights and/or combat sports. Which is sad but forgivable if you are just a “fan”.

HOWEVER, if you are a “martial artist” and you think that fight was a “work”, I am really going to have to ask you; are you really a “martial artist”? How can you be martial artist and really have such a poor understanding of how a real fight works?

Among people who are active in training fighters, coaches who really understand how these things work, the overwhelming theory going into this was that McGregor let his big mouth create an excellent pay day for himself with very little to risk. Losing in boxing, not only not his sport but one he had never even competed in, to one of the best boxers of all time wouldn’t likely effect his “reputation”. The fact that McGregor didn’t contest the stoppage in the least lends credence to this theory. Also, the reality remains, if he really thought he was going to win this match he is really one of the biggest idiot blowhards of the century.

That people who claim to be martial artists after the fight thought it was a “work” demonstrates one of the biggest problems in “martial arts” today. Aside from my often cited “laundry lists” of random techniques, people are not learning STRATEGY. To make something real, to FIGHT, requires strategy. It is virtually absent in today’s martial arts training. I’d even say that a lot of so called “fight gyms” have virtually no strategy.

That one of the best camps in professional boxing history came into this match with a strategy is NOT a “surprise”. What is more significant for this particular discussion is that the strategy used was so simple and straightforward that pretty much any professional boxer would have used it. It’s a strategy used in professional and amateur fights. It’s a strategy used in a lot of combat sports. And it’s a strategy used in war. There were no “surprises” here. So that so called “martial artists” did not recognize it really tells you something…..

Monkey (Kung Fu) Business….

9 Dec

I write about a variety to subjects here, but almost all of them are controversial in some way. I also don’t have much of a “filter”. My belief system, which I often refer to as the “pillars of truth”, doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing. I believe that you serve people best by telling them the truth; even the ugly, unpleasant, inconvenient truth. So people with delicate constitutions, thin skins and false ideas of “martial virtue” frequently dislike me. As you might have guessed, I simply don’t care about that sort of thing very much.

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Over the years, I’ve belonged to a number of organizations, associations and federations. In fact, I’ve even been part of the leadership of a few and maybe you could even say I have created a few. If you are a martial artist, chance are you’ve belonged to a few as well. So, ask yourself, WHY did you join those groups?

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Like a lot of martial artists, I joined at least a few organizations for what might be loosely termed “recognition”. Not even necessarily “rank”, thought there are tons that do that as well. Some are cons that simply sell rank. Many legitimately serve to issue rank, with good intentions. Virtually all groups issue recognition in the form of certificates of membership and such.

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But does any of that stuff, certificates, membership, rank, etc etc really benefit those who join? There might have been a time when a prospective student in the martial arts chose one school because the “master” was an 8th degree black belt and the “other guy” was “just” 6th degree. Today, I’m not really sure any of that stuff matters.

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I know organizations that exist to give out rank outlines, rank requirements and, honestly, “cool stuff to teach”. Many instructors believe if they have more to teach, better stuff to teach, “cooler stuff” to teach, or manybe even “secret stuff” to teach that will translate into more students. Most of the martial arts industry is built upon ideas of rank outlines, rank requirements, belts and tests. Yet, again, I really have to tell you that in today’s world I am not sure any of that matters at all either. In fact, the more material you have the HARDER it might be to function as a business!

I’m just getting started, MUCH MORE to come in the next few days…..

History is perspective…

7 Oct

I actually missed the first three UFC’s, but I was given them on a VHS tape not long afterwards. I think people training today have a hard time imagining that in those days Brazilian Jiujitsu instruction was not easy to find, and if you wanted to train in it you had to ally yourself with them against the rest of the martial arts world. It was actually sort of a hostile period of time, quite unlike the era of cross training we live in now.

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Today, Brazilian Jiujitsu is a very popular (and organized) sport, but in the early days people were interested in it as it related to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Since there was that “US against THEM” mentality, there were those who joined Jiujitsu and then there was the rest of the world; looking at wrestling, Judo, Sambo and anything else they could learn to “counter” Jiujitsu. People became interested in the scene that evolved in Japan out of pro wrestling; UWF, UWFi, Shooto, Pancrase, etc. This also led to interest in “Catch wrestling” and some rather interesting events which I won’t go into in this particular blog.

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The thing is, in this initial period, people equated the ground with grappling and submissions. We saw armbars and triangle chokes from your back (the guard). Since people were looking to Japan for information, people became interested in lots of “exotic” submissions; weird leg locks and neck cranks. Early Pancrase “borrowed” professional wrestling “rules” and had only open hand slapping, and pretty much striking was NOT used on the ground.

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Of course, the UFC and all the subsequent promotions in the United States that followed it eventually changed the playing field. The Gracie family had always had the idea of getting a mount, or back mount, and striking. Some Brazilians excelled in this (I remember watching Rickson for example). But they usually used the strikes to set up a submission. Increasingly striking to end the match became an end unto itself and people really developed it as a skill.

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I was asked by the now defunct USKBA under Paul Rosner to judge an MMA event at Mohegan Sun. It was a Russian team, made up of Sambo trained fighters, against a team of Brazilian Jiujitsu fighters (mostly relocated Brazilians). In the “golden age” of early MMA people would have expected some sort of battle of submissions. The event was rather disappointing; the Jiujitsu fighters all systematically took down the Russians and used “ground and pound” to end the matches. They didn’t even need judges.

Submissions aren’t “dead”, we still see lots of chokes and Ronda Rousey certainly demonstrated that a good old school Jujigatame still had its place in modern MMA. But I think that is exactly the point. The basics, the “bread and butter” submissions still work in MMA. Like most things, the “flash” or the “clinic technique” is never what real fighting is about. It is about BASICS. Writing this blog, I think back to watching a documentary on Holland’s Jon Bluming. His fusion of Kyokushinkai and Judo featured only the most basic of Judo, three or four arm locks and three or four chokes (including lapel chokes).

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Go for the bacon, not the sizzle.

The need for balance in today’s martial arts community

28 Jun

For me personally, I “stumble upon” ideas over a period of time. The process for me seems to be that I begin with an idea, and toy with / experiment with it for a relatively long time and THEN, only then, does a more coherent statement of an opinion emerge. I am not sure how the process is for others, but this is how it works for me. I have already been embracing an idea for a few years now, but today I think I stumbled upon a more coherent expression of it after a conversation with a classmate of mine. Today’s martial arts community lacks balance, and a major contributor to this situation is a lack of perspective.

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I don’t think it is overreaching to state that the introduction of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) at the very least acted as a catalyst in a process that was already going on in martial arts; the creation of very divergent approaches to martial arts training. Martial artists who had always been interested in practical application welcomed it, and many changed their approaches based upon it. Those who embraced martial arts as physical culture, as a way of life, as a spiritual pursuit or as a method of health maintenance largely had a negative response to it. For the purposes of my discussion here, I am NOT really interested in discussion the frauds, the con men and the fake methods NOR with those who are interested in its performance aspects such as movie choreographers, contemporary wushu stylists, “extreme martial artists” etc.

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Based upon many years of producing fighters and focusing on practical application and training, many associate me with the “pro MMA camp” so to speak. I certainly embrace practical training and things like cross training. I firmly believe in keeping the fighting tradition alive. HOW I want to do that and what I mean by “ALIVE” are of course the subject of discussion here.

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While I certainly know a lot of fighters and coaches, I also have many acquaintances and friends in the fields of “internal martial arts”, health, movement, corrective movement etc. In fact. I also run myself an extremely large and successful program based not on “fighting” but applying martial arts to health and fitness. As I have tried for several years to explain, I am most certainly NOT opposed to such approaches. What I am advocating is a balanced approach based upon proper prespective.

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I see among those who practice for practical application a lot of injuries that are the natural result of such training. I see among those who say they practice just for physical culture or health a lack of martial awareness, which is mentally and spiritually “unhealthy”. We do not have “one argument” here, we have several, different approaches to make sure all are approaching their martial arts practice holistically.

Recently, as I dug out of the back of my mind Chan Tai-San’s “Gam Gong Lihn Gung” (金剛練功) practice and have been practicing it and showing it to my students, I am convinced more than ever the need to have BOTH practical training and training in health and movement awareness.

Isn’t all Chinese Martial Art (CMA) really Mixed Martial Art (MMA)?

20 Mar

Chan Tai San catches a kick and sweeps the supporting leg

Chan Tai San catches a kick and sweeps the supporting leg

One of the best aspects of the internet and especially Facebook is the ability to reconnect with old students. I recently reconnected with a student from the early 1990’s.

Chan Tai-San's public class from early 1990's

Chan Tai-San’s public class from early 1990’s

After twenty plus years, it is easy to lose perspective. People ask me how I got interested in all this “fighting stuff”? As if one day I was just doing pretty kung fu forms and the next day we were fighting professional MMA matches? In one sense, of course, there was evolution. But in quite another sense, what we were doing even when we were Chan Tai-San’s kung fu school was VERY MUCH about fighting! To quote that student in a recent post he put on facebook.

I like to say when I trained With you back in the day we were doing MMA. We just didn’t get deep into the ground game.

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I’d argue that all legitimate Chinese martial art (CMA) really is Mixed Martial Art (MMA). Chan Tai-San was having us drill kicks, strikes, clinches, throws and takedowns. We were sparring quite a lot actually.

Sparring in Chan Tai-San's school

Sparring in Chan Tai-San’s school

To quote another classmate who was also there back in those days, the classes were very much about conditioning, followed by technique drills and then partner drills. Forms always came LAST. And there were days it wasn’t there at all.

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So when my student, the first one mentioned here, says “All we were missing was some BJJ” they are EXACTLY ON POINT.

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I didn’t see the first three UFC events live. I was given them on a video tape as a gift and watched them all in one night. I was fascinated in several ways, watching Royce Gracie win all those matches, wondering why so many so called martial artists seemed so limited in skill. I was definitely interested in this thing called “Gracie Jiujitsu” but I also felt that a major problem was that the other participants really did not have the proper skills for the format.

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Not long after I was given the UFC on video tapes, someone also gave me a tape of Japanese shooto. BOOM! There is was. Those guys were doing that ground fighting stuff, they knew submissions. But they also had what I considered the necessary stand up skills of kicking, striking, knees, and stand up wrestling. THIS is what I thought martial art should be. I only had to learn some ground stuff and some more stuff to link it to my existing Chinese martial art based stand up training.

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My interest in Shooto subsequently led me to learn about Erik Paulson. Paulson, a walking encyclopedia of martial arts knowledge, challenged me not only to look for “ground fighting” stuff but to expand my knowledge in every area. The rest, as they say, is “history”….

Not so secret “secrets” in Chinese martial arts…

11 Mar

Today’s blog is an assortment of advice I give my students, mostly mundane stuff yet stuff that is often NOT discussed in martial arts classes these days. Thus the no to secret “secrets” in Chinese martial arts.

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Straight punches all originate from my center line. In fact, they connect my center line to my opponent’s center line. Keeping this in mind keeps my straight punches very accurate.

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Straight punches aimed at my opponent’s head originate at my nose. Straight punches aimed at my opponent’s body originate at my solar plexus. This is just “roughly speaking” but again, it is to keep you dominating the center line.

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The intent (意) is all important in punching. You concentrate on the front of the fist and the direction of the strike. When you strike the head, you picture your fist traveling out the back of their skull. When you strike the body, you picture your fist traveling to the spine. The intent also helps you develop the quality of your strike; stiff, pushing, springing, etc

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Remember that developing your bridges (forearms) and conditioning them means that often your strike will intercept and cut through other strikes.

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The Lama pai / Lion’s Roar instructor program is starting very soon! If you are interested you can contact me at INFO@nysanda.com

Empty your cup…..

29 Jan

“Empty your cup”, the title of today’s blog, has become a cliche. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t also true! In practicing martial arts, we learn important life lessons, if we are just willing to pay attention to them.

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In martial arts, as in life, people simply don’t want to leave their comfort zone. It’s completely understandable, but leaving your comfort zone is exactly what people need to do. A person who was a very high level striker with many fights, I’m tempted to even say they were a “natural”, wanted to train to do Mixed Martial Arts and so off to Brazilian Jiu JItsu class he went.

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Needless to say, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class, he was not the rock star. He was, in fact, a no one. In striking, he could dominate anyone. In Jiu Jitsu class he was tapping out right and left. He did what most people in this situation would do, he quit. He never did MMA and he never went back to any form of grappling. The reverse has also been frequently true. A masterful wrestler has come home from the gym with a black eye, bruised ribs and sore legs and never returned to stand up training.

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I mentioned once that being promoted to instructor level in a martial art and opening a school can be one of the most damaging things to happen to a martial artist. The martial arts community has built up a false image of instructors, as god-like figures who can do no wrong and can never be defeated. An instructor may want, may in fact NEED additional training, but all too often is afraid to “show weakness.”

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If you’ve read this blog, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve sought out additional training well after I was established as an instructor under the late Chan Tai-San and well after I had my own school. I like to joke that I’ve been beaten up by some of the best. I’ve been tapped out more than my fair share of times. I’ve also been out wrestled, kicked around, and punched by people who as fighters were much better than me.

In fact, I have frequently taken my own students with me to seminars. I”ve never told them I was a super man, I’ve never claimed I am undefeated. Also, I don’t fear them seeing what others have to offer. I’ve taught them the best material I have, which I know to be pretty good stuff. Never once have I lost a student when they’ve seen another instructor’s material. In fact, most of the time my students not only felt more motivated after the training, but also said the experience gave them more confidence in what we do at our school.

So my advice to anyone is, put on that white belt….

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I am seeking a few good people

18 Jan

A number of things have kept this on the “back burner” but I am now prepared to announce the formation of the official Lion’s Roar San Da Instructor’s program. I will be offering a program that will not only teach you the system, but also teach you HOW to teach it. The program should begin in March 2016 and will require participants to commit to training a minimum of 40 hours in the initial stage.

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    What is the Lion’s Roar San Da Instructor’s Program?

The program is designed not only to teach an individual all the techniques and skills of the Lion’s Roar system; but also the system’s theory and concepts and the why and how the system has been arranged. A candidate will learn how to teach the system from the ground up, including the methods of correcting technique and movement.

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    What does the Lion’s Roar San Da Instructor’s Program include?

Broadly speaking, the Lion’s Roar San Da system includes the following divisions of study;
(1) Traditional Lion’s Roar foundation techniques including the “shooting star fists” etc.
(2) Contemporary training divided into “kickboxing”, “clinching” and “ground fighting”.
(3) Conditioning and corrective movement based upon the Gam Gong Myuhn system.

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    Is the Lion’s Roar San Da Instructor’s program only for amateur and professional fighters?

NO, the program is actually designed for those who want to learn a complete martial arts system and also for those who may wish to eventually pass it along, even if just on a small scale. The focus of the program is NOT “fighting”, although some “live” training is included.

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    Is a particular “rank” or previous training required to join this program?

NO, no particular martial arts training or rank is required. In fact, while we will not discriminate, in some cases previous martial arts training may actually hinder learning this method. Those with backgrounds in other things such as physical therapy, yoga, other corrective movement or exercise science would be especially welcome!

    How is the program structured?

The program will initially require a commitment of forty (40) hours of training. Additional levels of instruction and certification will include one hundred (100) hours, one hundred fifty (150) hours and two hundred (200) hours of instruction. Certification is also contingent upon successful completion of examinations.

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In addition to being personally trained by Sifu David Ross, members of the program will be supported by my books, my instructional DVD’s and also have access to supporting materials the public will not have access to.

If you think you are interested please send me an email with the subject “Instructor’s Program” to info@nysanda.com

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